Adrian Shanker's Blog

Who is Dr. Rachel Levine? Here’s what we know about Joe Biden’s pick for assistant secretary of health

By Molly Bil’inski
The Morning Call
January 19th, 2021

Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine, who has served as one of the leaders in the state’s response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, has been selected by President-elect Joe Biden to be his assistant secretary of health.

Levine could become the first openly transgender federal official to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

“Dr. Rachel Levine will bring the steady leadership and essential expertise we need to get people through this pandemic — no matter their zip code, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability — and meet the public health needs of our country in this critical moment and beyond,” Biden said in a statement. “She is a historic and deeply qualified choice to help lead our administration’s health efforts.”

Adrian Shanker, executive director of Allentown’s Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center, said Levine is a “dedicated public servant, a public health expert, and a compassionate leader who is well-prepared to go to Washington to improve public health for the American people.”

“As a transgender woman, Dr. Levine will make history as the first trans person to receive Senate confirmation. But more than making history, Dr. Levine will make a difference in the lives of LGBTQ Americans, and all Americans through her innovative approaches and her unabated dedication to public health,” Shanker said in a statement. “We should all be proud of the Biden-Harris administration for this historic nomination of Dr. Levine, and we should all encourage her swift confirmation by the U.S. Senate.”

Corinne Goodwin, Executive Director of Eastern PA Trans Equity Project, said in a statement that Levine “has all the credentials one could ask for.”

“As a person of transgender experience her nomination is groundbreaking, but the truth is, she has the experience and tools needed to serve the citizens of our nation, and that is what matters most,” Goodwin said.

Levine was set to speak at noon Tuesday on the state’s new coronavirus “Early Warning Monitoring Dashboard” via Facebook Live.Biden picks Dr. Rachel Levine as assistant health secretary »

Here’s what we know about her:

Levine, a professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at the Penn State College of Medicine, graduated from Harvard College and the Tulane University School of Medicine, according to her profile on the state’s website. She’s written and lectured on the opioid crisis, medical marijuana, adolescent medicine, eating disorders and LGBT medicine.

She was appointed to her current post by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf in 2017. For two years prior, she served as physician general of the commonwealth.

Originally from Massachusetts, Levine moved to central Pennsylvania from Manhattan in the early 1990s, according to a 2016 report from The Washington Post. Formerly called Richard, she publicly announced herself as a transgender woman around 2010.

In 2015, Levine served as grand marshal of the Philadelphia Pride Parade. Then, in 2019, Levine was grand marshal of Lehigh Valley Pride.PICTURES: Lehigh Valley Pride 2019 »

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Adrian Shanker is an award-winning activist and organizer whose career has centered on advancing progress for the LGBT community. He has worked as an arts fundraiser, labor organizer, marketing manager, and served as President of Equality Pennsylvania for three years before founding Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center in Allentown, PA, where he serves as executive director. An accomplished organizer, Adrian has led numerous successful campaigns to advance LGBT progress through municipal nondiscrimination and relationship recognition laws and laws to protect LGBT youth from conversion therapy. A specialist in LGBT health policy, he has developed leading-edge health promotion campaigns to advance health equity through behavioral, clinical, and policy changes.

Rachel L. Levine, MD, is the secretary of health for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and Professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry at the Penn State College of Medicine. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine, and the Academy for Eating Disorders. She is a member of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health. She is also a board member and executive committee member of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. Dr. Levine joined Governor Tom Wolf’s administration in January 2015 as the physician general of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and, upon her appointment, became the first transgender person to hold a cabinet position in Pennsylvania. In 2017, she was named the acting secretary of health and in 2018 was confirmed by the Pennsylvania Senate as the Secretary of Health. She leads the LGBTQ Policy Workgroup and advocates for LGBT rights for the Wolf Administration. Dr. Levine is also an accomplished regional and international speaker and author on the opioid crisis, medical marijuana, adolescent medicine, eating disorders, and LGBT medicine. Dr. Levine graduated from Harvard College and the Tulane University School of Medicine. She completed her training in pediatrics and adolescent medicine at the Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York City.

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